Our ‘good neighbor’ Formosa Plastics: petrochemical damage(s) and the meanings of money

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Contributed date

September 16, 2020 - 8:26pm

Critical Commentary


Through its chronic pollution and recurrent explosions, the petrochemical industry is the source of constant damage for fenceline communities. Measures that might prevent or correct this damage are postponed with a local flow of money, a situation viewed through the prism of the different levels of damage, from chronic pollution to cancers and explosions. This article analyzes how a collective lawsuit launched against a petrochemical complex in Taiwan is challenging this economy. Formosa Plastics, the owner of the petrochemical complex, is one of the world’s largest chemical companies. Its ‘good neighbor’ policy includes a mix of political corruption, patronage care services and regular cash payments. Based on a four-year observation and in-depth interviews with the plaintiffs and other local sources, this article draws on the sociology of money to examine the ambiguous role of compensation in disputes over environmental and public health damage. I show that the search for justice and compensation nourishes a range of expectations. This includes, in proportion to the scope of the damage, a moral condemnation of the polluters and the prevention of further harm, in addition to economic assistance


Paul Jobin (2020): Our ‘good neighbor’ Formosa Plastics: petrochemical damage(s) and the meanings of money, Environmental Sociology, DOI: 10.1080/23251042.2020.1803541